The JP McManus-owned Darlan has been all the rage to defy top-weight in the featured handicap hurdle at Cheltenham tomorrow.
Given that AP McCoy's mount emerged as one of the very best novices throughout last season, that is maybe no surprise. Still, at a top-priced 9/4 in such a competitive contest, any value that there was to be had about him is well and truly gone.
A decent seven-strong team of Irish-trained horses endeavour to bring the spoils back this way for a first time since Sizing Europe's triumph in 2007. Moon Dice, fourth last year after meeting trouble in-running, and Galway Hurdle runner-up Cause Of Causes, a narrow winner at Fairyhouse last week, are not without chances.
Glam Gerry is also interesting off a favourable hurdle mark under 7lb claimer Brian Hayes, though he might not be quite quick enough for this sort of race. All told, Domination appeals as possibly the most solid option at around 9/1.
A ready winner of a Cesarewitch trial when last seen at Newmarket in September, the five-year-old has all the appearance of a cautiously placed Charles Byrnes improver.
Despite being in excellent form this summer, Byrnes ran Domination just once over hurdles, when he was narrowly denied in a cracking race at Killarney on September 1.
His nose conqueror Baily Green has since continued his rich vein of form by winning three more chases, while Rattan and Norther Bay, third and fifth respectively, also both won next time. On just his second handicap outing, then, Domination has real claims off a 10lb higher mark under the decent three-pound claimer Rob Jones.
On a card that sees Oliver Brady's Imperial Shabra tackle the mighty Sprinter Sacre in the Shloer Chase, Bondage is another raider with a live chance in the Grade Two novice hurdle.
Gordon Elliott's charge won a handicap with a bit to spare here in October, and he may not need to find much more to follow up under McCoy now.
Outsider to note
Mart Lane wouldn't be without an each-way chance for John 'Shark' Hanlon in the Intermediate Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham tomorrow.
Hanlon's horses continue to be a bit hit and miss, but this fellow had the class to win a Leopardstown bumper and get within a few lengths of Dedigout as a novice last term.
Mart Lane has struggled to find his form so far this year, but he is potentially well treated off 128 as a result, and Brian Hayes' seven-pound claim is a big plus.
Punchestown 12.35 – Road To Riches
Cheltenham 1.45 – Mart Lane
Cheltenham 2.50 – Domination
Cheltenham 3.25 – Bondage
125,000– The sterling figure that a nomination to Frankel will cost in his first year at stud. In this part of the world, only his sire Galileo is believed to cost more at up to €300,000 a go. Sea The Stars is available for €85,000, a snip in comparison.
28– November date for Limerick's replacement fixture after Monday's card was lost.
Quote of the week
We've had so much interest, including from Irish jockeys, and it is just a shame we couldn't find rides for all of them. If there is enough interest we could even consider doing something along the lines of an Anglo-Irish contest."
– Lingfield spokesperson Kate Hills after a Flat jockeys' hurdle race proved a bit of a novelty hit on Tuesday. Johnny Murtagh and Seamie Heffernan, both of whom have ridden over hurdles, were two Irish-based riders reported to have been keen to take part.
Three things we
learned this week
1 There is still very little that appeals more to Irish racing fans than the prospect of an old-fashioned, quality steeplechaser.
At Navan on Sunday and Clonmel on Thursday, folk turned out in relative droves to see some proper horses strut their stuff, and they weren't disappointed.
Flemenstar confirmed himself a genuine contender for top honours with an accomplished front-running rout on his Navan return, before an energised Sizing Europe turned in a mesmerising display to hose up at Clonmel.
As if that weren't enough for one week, Tarla then produced a spring-heeled exhibition of jumping to canter up against more experienced rivals on her chasing debut in the very next race.
All three horses are versatile sorts that boast an array of possibilities, with a real treat in store should Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs face off in the John Durkan Memorial Chase. On December 9, Punchestown will be the place to be.
2 Maybe there was more to Frankie Dettori's willingness to ride Camelot for Coolmore in the Arc than met the eye.
At the time, the Italian's fall down the pecking order at Godolphin was presumed to be the sole cause of his decision to team up with Sheikh Mohammed's fiercest rival, but the revelation that he tested positive for a banned substance in France some weeks previously thickens the plot.
Presumably, he was acutely aware of the possibility of a long ban, which would only have enhanced his sense that he had little to lose.
Either way, if the speculation about what was found in his system is true, it is incredible that such a seasoned pro could prove so naive.
3 Jane Mangan just keeps getting better. The 19-year-old Conna girl has long looked the part, but her polished Limerick double on Sunday confirmed her growing prowess.
Stylish, tactically astute and composed on Dont Tell Pa for her father Jimmy, she was determined, strong and tidy in driving Casablanca Lily home for Charlie Swan.
An independent-minded girl to boot, the Cork IT student doesn't appreciate comparisons with Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh but, like them, she is a daughter of a Grand National-winning trainer with the full set of riding and personal skills.
Monday: Leicester, Plumpton, Wolverhampton (AW)
Tuesday: Wexford, Fakenham, Folkestone, Southwell (AW)
Wednesday: Fairyhouse, Hexham, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Warwick
Thursday: Thurles, Hereford, Kempton* (AW), Market Rasen, Wincanton
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Ascot, Ffos Las, Haydock, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Saturday: Gowran Park, Ascot, Haydock, Huntingdon, Lingfield (AW), Wolverhampton* (AW)
Sunday: Navan, Exeter, Towcester